5 On Your Side

Are you driving around with a safety hazard?

Posted January 11, 2021 4:10 p.m. EST
Updated January 11, 2021 4:59 p.m. EST

While life has been on hold for almost a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, there's still a lot to stay on top of, including your car.

There are ways to find out if your car is in need of a free fix because of a recall, but many owners may not know about it. If you’re the second or third owner, the recall notice may not find you.

Check on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website by typing in your Vehicle Identification Number. Any open recalls will come up.

Tens of millions of cars are recalled every year to correct problems ranging from software glitches, headlights and leaks that can cause fires.

"The bottom line: Every recall is important and should be taken seriously," said Consumer Reports auto editor Keith Barry.

If the safety defect is serious enough, you might be advised not to drive the car or to park it outside until it’s fixed. Recall repairs are usually free, but you do need to make the appointment.

"One thing to keep in mind is consumers are not entitled to a rental car or a loaner," explained Barry. "Sometimes a dealership or an automaker will offer one as a courtesy, but it is not required by law."

Cars can legally be sold even if they have an open recall. If you're buying a used car, so it's even more important to run the VIN.

Consumer Reports offers a free car recall tracker. When you sign up you’ll get an email if one’s issued for your car.

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